Chuck E. Cheese or Child Prison? You Make the Call!

 Hi Folks! Here’s a letter from prison…er…Chuck E. Cheese, sent to us by Angelica Totten, who originally posted it on her Facebook page. I so agree that the policy at Chuck E’s is not only overkill, it’s cultural pollution, spreading the idea that predators are always lurking near kids and ready to kidnap them if we don’t maintain a police-state-like vigilance. – L. 


 Dear Free-Range Kids: This culture of fear HAS to change. We are making ourselves into crazy people. Went to Chuck E. Cheese for the first time ever and it wasn’t as bad as I’ve always heard (although the pizza did give me diarrhea). My son had a good time. BUT they have this horrible “KidCheck” program.
The way it works is that in order to get into the restaurant, you have to get your arm and your kid’s arm stamped with the same number in invisible ink. Then, before you can leave, they check you with an ultraviolet light to make sure, oh, I don’t know, that you’re not a crazed killer abducting the happy, calm looking child next to you. Even logistically speaking, this is a nightmare: What if Dad drives straight there from work and doesn’t arrive at the same time as Mom, so his number is different, and then he gets tackled by Chuck E. Cheese security goons when he tries to take his kid home? Or what if my kid was going home afterward with one of our friends so I could go try to crack the international diamond cartel or something? His number wouldn’t match theirs, and all hell would break loose in Security Theatre Land.

But it’s more than that, I think. When we treat going to a pizza parlor like going into lockdown, we as a culture have a problem. And the problem isn’t too many “predators.” It’s too many people who think there are predators lurking around every corner (does Chuck E. Cheese himself count? He was pretty scary). Being forced to be stamped with mystery ink is degrading, as if we are all suspected of  just waiting for a chance to hurt a child. Even more degrading is having to wait to be scanned with an ultraviolet light before reluctantly being allowed to leave with YOUR OWN DAMN CHILD.

I decided pretty early on that I was going to avoid that scan, come hell or high water, and managed to get out the door before the KidCheck officer — oops, I mean employee — could Tase me or hit the panic button that summons the military helicopters. He did try to chase after me, you know, because this was somehow “unsafe.” My next move was going to be to pull down my pants and show him my c-section scar. I’m this kid’s mom, honest. Ask me how loudly he screams when he’s hungry and asked to clean up his toys.

It made me feel somewhat better to pen a letter (well, email) to Chuck E. Cheese corporate headquarters complaining about this overkill policy. I suggested  that perhaps if they don’t want to scrap the KidCheck program altogether, they could make it voluntary (not sure how that would work, but that’s their problem). The best solution would be for parents to stop outsourcing safety, and to realize that the best way to protect their kids is to (1) Teach them never to go off with strangers. Talking to strangers is fine. A stranger can help you if you’re in trouble. (2) Teach them to yell and fight back if somebody does something that makes them feel uncomfortable. And (3) Start letting them do things on their own, so they start figuring out what feels OK and what doesn’t.

And we as a culture have to calm down. It’s a vicious circle. If enough people talk about scary, scary predator dangers, you start to think maybe they know what they’re talking about. They don’t. Your child’s chances of being abducted and killed are .00007 percent. Crimes against children (and against all people) have been plummeting since 1992. Your kid is 40% more likely to die in a car crash than to be killed by a “predator.”

Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe they should have bouncers to keep your kids from getting in and out of the car with you…

Your Chuck E. correspondent, Angelica
If you think I’M creepy, you should see my world view!

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